Remembering Cecil Howard

cecilthumbLabeled by Playboy magazine as “The Grandmaster of Erotic Filmmaking,” Cecil Howard was a one-of-a-kind director the likes of which we will never see again. He was a uniquely talented individual with a unique perspective towards his art. Howard’s artistic vision
and dedication to his craft defines the climate of what we refer to as the “Golden Age of Porn,” and led him to break barriers for what could be possible in adult film. His films feature detailed stories and character development coupled with steamy, erotic, and sometimes controversial sexual situations. Cecil Howard has won every major adult filmmaking award and is a member of the AVN and XRCO Hall of Fame.

Originally an artist, Cecil Howard’s background before filmmaking included photography and print layout. He was the art director for Lancer Books, famous for their illustrated covers for science-fiction and fantasy paperbacks. Later, he began using his photography skills for softcore films made by his close friend, Armand Weston. From there, Howard emerged into the world of XXX as a producer for Weston, working alongside Henri Pachard as well as Chuck Vincent.

Production

To label Howard a “grandmaster” was appropriate since he was a keen strategist in every aspect of his filmmaking. From a film’s inception, to production, to marketing, and distribution, Cecil Howard was involved in every aspect of his movies from beginning to end. It wasn’t that Howard wanted to control every aspect of his movies. It may appear that way on the surface, but having been involved with Howard for the past ten years I came to see that Howard saw that each of his movies had a life and that life continuedscoundrels on beyond the production and even its initial release.

Like any good parent, Cecil Howard saw to it that every part of the process was the best it could be, and guided his creations throughout their life cycle. It is widely recognized that he coached some of the best performances out of his actors. He liked to cast against type, like Ron Jeremy in Scoundrels or Nina Hartley in Dreamwalk, and his direction often would result in Best Actor/Actress nominations for the performers. In other cases, he utilized people who were not necessarily actors, but their casting was integral to the production. Look at how he used Ariel Lee in Scoundrels or the street magician Dante in Heat Wave.

Howard’s works were true feature-length films, with the sex scenes serving as vehicles for his films’ plots. Howard’s movies were not the formulaic setup that dominates much of the porn we see today. Instead, Howard preferred to make the sex an accessory to the overall story he aimed to tell. Many of the stars that worked with platinumparadiseHoward expressed that they, for the first time in their careers, felt like true actors on his set rather than adult performers. Howard’s perfectionism when it came to his product extended far beyond the acting, however. His films would often take months to edit, as Howard liked to take exhaustive amounts of footage from as many angles as he could capture. While his work ethic came to the chagrin of his editing team, many of Howard’s editors went on to have successful editing careers in mainstream movies and television.

Distribution

As the exclusive VOD carrier of Cecil Howard’s award-winning library, HotMovies has worked faithfully over the years alongside babylonpinkMr. Howard to translate his VHS-era vision to an online format. Howard’s films were initially created for a theater-going audience, as film was once the prevailing medium in the adult industry. Howard’s protective nature over his content extended to the theater releases. Rather than allow adult theaters to profit off of the ticket sales for his films, Howard would rent out an entire theater in order to keep his movies’ profits for himself. Howard never allowed his work to be compiled or licensed out; he was to remain the sole authority on his films. Even when the internet-age of porn came about, Howard was scrupulous about keeping anything with his name on it off of illegal tube sites.

Being the artist that he was, Howard’s brand was always very clear and specific, and wouldn’t want it presented to the world any other way. Sometimes referred to as “demanding,” many would consider Howard’s highly protected brand enviable. Perhaps contemporary directors could learn a thing or two from Howard about how to properly maintain control of their content.

Notable Cecil Howard Titles

heatwaveHeat Wave (1977) Heat Wave is the brainchild of renowned director Cecil Howard that he hired his longtime friend, Armand Weston, to direct. Howard saw Dante performing on the streets of New York every night while driving home from work. Much like the character Dante portrays, Howard could not resist putting the street magician in his next movie. And the rest, as they say, is history…

Babylon Pink (1979) Widely regarded as the pinnacle of Howard’s filmography, Babylon Pink delighted adult moviegoers in 1979 and spawned an entire Babylon Pink series.

Platinum Paradise (1980) Cecil Howard intertwines his characters masterfully in Platinum Paradise to build the sexual tension exemplified in the scene where the married couple has phone sex while being pleasured by separate lovers. One of the most uniquely erotic scenes is between Eric Edwards and Vanessa Del Rio, where Del Rio is able to coax an orgasm from Edwards just by talking to his cock. It is this type of creativity that earned him the title Grandmaster of Erotic Filmmaking. An entire Platinum Paradise series followed the groundbreaking release.

neonnightsNeon Nights (1981) Neon Nights  won 2007 AVN Award Winner for Best Classic DVD and is also a XRCO Hall of Fame Movie.

Scoundrels (1982) Howard famously took home the first-ever AVN Awards in 1984 for Best Director, Best Film, and Best Editing for his feature Scoundrels. Having been nominated in all of the major film categories that year, Scoundrels grabbed the industry’s attention, and was referred to as a “sexual masterpiece” by AVN founder Paul Fishbein. Acclaimed writer Anne Randall provided the screenplay for the film, and Howard cast Ron Jeremy as his lead. Like many of Howard’s films, Ron Jeremy’s character was loosely based on Howard’s experiences as a commuter.

Sinners (1986) An epic in the grand tradition,  Howard’s Sinners series is a sprawling, powerful and seductive masterpiece. Hailed by critics and fans alike, Part One of this groundbreaking series was awarded as one of the best pictures of 1988.

lastxratedmovieThe Last X-Rated Movie (1990) The first installment of a four part series, The Last X-Rated Movie is Cecil Howard’s epic Swan Song in the adult genre. It garnered 8 AVN award nominations for 1990 including Best Actor – Eric Edwards and Best Supporting Actress – Nina Hartley.

Cecil Howard was an extremely intelligent man who understood how every aspect of the production affected the product. He stopped making movies before the internet came into existence. Fifteen years later, he was smart enough to understand that if he wanted the “lives” of his creations to continue, he would need to distribute them on the internet. But, true to his nature, he was going to be a part of that process. He would ensure that people experienced his art properly. Howard didn’t want to have his content carried on more than one VOD site because he knew he was going to personally involved in the release of every film. He chose HotMovies because we were willing to do whatever he wanted to ensure they were being presented properly. Every time he would release a movie on VOD, he would send specific instructions on how to present it, all the way down to the opacity of the watermark. Each release was a unique event and we were always honored to be a part of his grand vision for the life of his films.

 

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